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A look at the school, the races and the future of this unique 'sport'
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New Tour leader Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) soaks up the applause.
Frenchman predicts he won't get into any breaks while in race lead
After taking over the lead of the general classification in the Tour de France on Sunday during stage 9, Thomas Voeckler will have to wait until Tuesday morning to race in it, following Monday's rest day.
Voeckler last wore yellow in the Tour de France in 2004 when he was just 25. That year he entered into a breakaway which gained 12 minutes on the main peloton, and he was able to hold onto the lead for 10 days.
"I will not keep it as long," said Voeckler. "I'm not a bother to the general classification favorites. I'm an intermittent yellow jersey wearer."
Those days in the maillot jaune made him a known name in cycling around the world. Now 32, he told L'Equipe, "It's the only race in the world where to be a leader, even temporarily, is more important than a stage victory."
This year, as in 2004, being in yellow will not be easy and holding onto it will be even harder with a finish in Luz Ardiden on Thursday's Bastille Day, and Voeckler with just over two minutes on main contenders like Cadel Evans and Andy Schleck.
In the meanwhile, he will also have to protect his jersey from opportunists like himself who will test his Europcar team to its limits with breakaway attempts over the next two stages. "I will not have time to enjoy. It's all about concentration," said Voeckler. "You see who escapes and try to control the dangerous riders."
There is a downside to being in yellow, as Voeckler pointed out. "It means I won't be able to get in any breakaways which is almost a shame because the 158km stage 10 offers ideal terrain for attackers."
The Europcar team has lost riders like Christophe Kern and Vincent Jérôme in the first week, but manager Jean-René Bernaudeau believes the team will still be plenty strong enough to work for Voeckler, especially with the team's less experienced Tour racers wanting to make a good impression.
No matter what happens, Voeckler promised he would honor the yellow jersey for however long he does manage to keep it.